Making the Retail Environment Safer with Key Control and Guard Tour Systems.

By Fernando Pires – VP, Sales and Marketing – Morse Watchmans

During the holiday shopping season, many malls, discount chain stores and other retail outlets will offer extended shopping hours to take advantage of the most active buying time of the year. And along with the extended hours, retailers may also ramp up their security, both inside and out, with the assistance of additional security guards, traffic control and extra sales staff.

These added security measures have proven to be successful in helping to provide a safer and more protected environment. While there are no absolute safeguards, there are additional proven crime prevention techniques that can help improve the physical security and safeguarding of a retail property. One of the most common of these techniques is the implementation of a mechanical lock and key system, supported by a key control management system.

Locks and keys are the most widely used security devices and can be found anywhere access must be controlled, including doors, gates, windows, cabinets and store rooms that may contain valuable inventory, infrastructure and other expensive items. Because the security of a retail property relies heavily upon locking devices, a sound key management system is even more essential during the holiday shopping season.

Key control systems are designed to electronically release keys only to authorized users. Each individual key, whether a traditional mechanical key or a plastic card access key, is secured to a locking mechanism that features a built-in memory chip. Data from the chip is stored when a key is inserted into or removed from a slot in the key cabinet. From this data, management has a complete history of who used the key and when.

Information about who has which keys to which locks, when they had them and when they were returned, is vitally important. Failure to maintain this kind of control can result in key mismanagement, leading to serious losses such as theft or personal injury as well as the replacement and cost for lost keys. Additionally, the ability to audit who accessed any given key and when can be a theft deterrent in itself as well as a useful investigative tool.

Sophisticated key management allows for a wide range of options for developing custom solutions, including the flexibility to have different levels of security in different areas. Gone are the days of outdated manual logs or color coded tags that can be easily torn or lost. Today’s high-tech systems deliver ample testament to the bottom-line benefits of key control and help to ensure that the dollars spent confront security threats in addition to providing a return on the investment. Many of today’s key management systems can complement the security trends of system integration and IP connectivity.

As mentioned above, another resource for retailers to help ensure the safety of holiday shoppers as well as the premises is to add to the roster of security guards during the holiday shopping season. Moving around the facility, the guard is a source of data that can assist with risk management and facility assessment in real time. Using handheld tools such as an interactive guard tour system with an LCD and keypad, an officer can communicate incident reports for situations that require immediate action. For example, if there is ice on a walkway, an emergency door exit has been propped open or a light in the stairwell is broken, the guard can assign a numerical code and transmit information about the incident to management so that the problem can be quickly resolved.

In today’s environment of extreme liability and accountability, and especially during busy holiday shopping times, key control and guard tour systems can be a tremendous benefit to the retailer.